The best early Black Friday 2018 deals

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Amazon Echo (2nd Generation) – Refurbished

Amazon Echo

Street Price: $80; Deal Price: $60

Only available in Heather Gray, this $60 refurbished sale on our pick in our Alexa guide is the best price we’ve seen on this model to date.

The Amazon Echo (2nd Gen) is our pick of Amazon’s Alexa-controlled speakers. Grant Clauser writes, “If you want music without hooking up any additional speakers, the second-generation Echo offers the complete range of functions, minus the screen features of the Show and Spot. As a speaker, it’s good for kitchens, offices, dens, bedrooms, and other places where convenience and size (it’s about the size of a Foster’s beer can) is more important than audio performance. The speaker is designed for 360-degree dispersion, so placing it in the middle of the room will give you sound in all four corners.”

Audio-Technica LP60-BT Turntable

Audio-Technica turntable

Street Price: $150; Deal Price: $120

Down to $120 in both Black and White, this pricing matches the low we’ve seen for this Bluetooth-enabled turntable. We haven’t seen a deal on this turntable since the the summer.

The Audio-Technica LP60-BT Turntable is the budget pick in our guide to the best turntable for casual listening. Chris Heinonen writes, “If you want something that can just play records easily for as little as possible, the Audio-Technica LP60-BT will do the job. Unlike the other tables we considered, LP60-BT is fully automatic: Press a button and the table spins while the arm moves into position. Once a record is done, the arm goes back into place and the table stops. It has a built-in phono stage and you can even get it with a Bluetooth output for use with wireless speakers.”

Yeti by Blue USB Microphone + Fallout 76 (PC) Bundle

Blue Yeti microphone

Street Price: $150; Deal Price: $100

Back down to $140 from the typical street price of $180, this matches the low we’ve seen for this table-top streamer and includes the bonus of a free 3rd Gen (newest version) Echo Dot, around a $35 value.

The Yeti by Blue USB Microphone is the top pick in our guide to the best USB microphone. Kevin Purdy and Lauren Dragan write, “It provided the most reliably well-rounded, natural sound out of all the mics we tested―whether on Windows or Mac, or whether recording happened in professional studios or in a small square office… It offers live headphone monitoring and gain control, two key features for any recording setup (other mics lacked these or made using them too complicated). It is more stable on its stand than most microphones we tested, and feels far more solidly constructed and durable.”

PlayStation Plus 1 Year Membership

PlayStation Plus

Street Price: $60; Deal Price: $40

Matching Cyber Monday prices we saw last year, a 12 months subscription is back down to $40 from $60, still the best price we’ve seen.

PlayStation Plus is mentioned alongside the PlayStation 4 in our guide for the best game consoles. Thorin Klosowski writes, “The PlayStation Plus subscription service provides online multiplayer and two free games a month, equivalent to what you get from the Xbox Live Gold service. Most people should get the standard PS4 model, not the PS4 Pro, unless you have a 4K TV or plan to buy one very soon.”

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9

Street Price: $700; Deal Price: $520

A big drop from street price and a new low for all colors, this model comes unlocked with a US warranty.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a runner-up pick in our guide to the best android phones. Ryan Whitwam writes, “The Samsung Galaxy S9 and its larger sibling, the Samsung Galaxy S9+, have some features that the Pixel 3 phones don’t, such as a microSD card slot and a headphone jack. Plus, they’re available for purchase through any carrier. These phones have the latest curved OLED screens from Samsung—the best we’ve ever seen on a phone—and the bezel surrounding the screen is tiny. The Galaxy S9’s camera has an adjustable aperture, so it can take brighter low-light shots while also getting sharper photos in brighter light, though we still like the Pixel 3’s camera more overall.”

DJI Tello Mini

DJI Tello Mini

Street Price: $100; Deal Price: $80

The first notable drop we’ve seen since we started tracking this already affordable drone.

The DJI Tello Mini is an also great pick in our guide to the best drones under $100. Signe Brewster writes, “The DJI Tello, which is made in partnership with robotics company Ryze, is our pick if you’re looking for an inexpensive drone that can take pictures and videos. It has surprisingly advanced autonomous features normally found on much more expensive drones. And its 5-megapixel, 720p camera—about the same resolution of an iPhone 4—takes good enough photos to make it fun for basic selfies and landscape pictures. It also has a 13-minute battery life, which is the longest of any drone we tested.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Black Friday, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go here.

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You can now sync Chromecast with Google Home speakers


PA Archive/PA Images

Starting today, Google is allowing Chromecast owners to add the streaming device to speaker groups along with Home speakers. The addition of the dongle to the Home ecosystem will allow you to queue up a song, playlist, podcast or audiobook and have it play in sync across all of the speakers and Chromecast-connected devices in your home.

XDA Developers spotted the functionality in Google’s Preview program that gives an early look at upcoming features. Google confirmed to Engadget that the capability is starting to roll out to users today. The feature makes good on Google’s promise to integrate Chromecast into speaker groups, which can be set up through the Google Home app. Now devices that connect with Chromecast, including televisions, can be added to a grouping. When a TV with Chromecast is synced to a speaker group, the display will show song information on screen, atop a rotating selection of background images.

Per XDA Developers, all generations of Chromecast devices should be compatible with the feature. Smart displays including Google’s own Home Hub and the LG Xboom WK9 will be able to be added to speaker groups in the coming weeks, according to VentureBeat. Earlier this year, Google made it possible to pair bluetooth speakers with the Home app to add voice control across your sound system.

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Fossil Sport review: Just another Wear OS watch

Smartwatches seem to be enjoying a minor revival this year, with major brands like Apple and Samsung continuing to push out intriguing new wearables like the Galaxy Watch and the Apple Watch Series 4. Google launched a redesign of Wear OS, and Qualcomm created a new processor specifically for watches. The Snapdragon Wear 3100 is built around a new architecture featuring low-power cores that claim to deliver dramatically better battery life. The Fossil Sport is one of the first watches to ship with the new chipset and is also the fashion company’s first fitness-focused smartwatch. Since this is the first Wear 3100 watch we’ve got our hands on, though, I’m eager to see if the new CPU lives up to its promises.

Gallery: Fossil Sport review | 10 Photos

Engadget Score


Poor


Uninspiring


Good


Excellent

Key

Pros
  • Stylish for a fitness watch
  • Affordable
  • Long-lasting battery-saving mode
Cons
  • Doesn’t make use of Wear 3100 Sports mode
  • Regular battery life isn’t significantly improved

Summary

Despite its name, the Fossil Sport is not really a fitness-focused watch. Its design has a sporty vibe, but beyond that it’s just another Wear OS watch. It’s one of the first watches to ship with the new Snapdragon Wear 3100, but it doesn’t do much to showcase the potential of Qualcomm’s first chip designed exclusively for smartwatches. For the price, though, the Fossil Sport is a decent, good-looking smartwatch.


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New Snapdragon Wear 3100 modes

The most important thing about the Fossil Sport is that it’s a showcase for Snapdragon Wear 3100. The chipset promises better performance and battery life by offering three new modes: Sport, Battery Saver and Ambient. Sport mode promises up to 15 hours of continuous heart rate and GPS tracking, while Battery Saver extends runtime by shutting down all functions and only displaying the time and the Fossil logo. It should give you a month of wear on a full charge, or a week with just 20 percent. Ambient mode is an always-on screen that shows slightly more detail, like a moving second hand and activity rings.

Inexplicably, Sport mode is absent from the Fossil Sport, and only available on select watches — which seems kinda strange for a device with “Sport” in its name.

Fossil Sport

Despite the Wear 3100’s new architecture, its performance on the Sport doesn’t seem significantly better than the Wear 2100. I’ve been using Fossil’s Q Venture HR Gen 4 with the redesigned Wear OS and the Wear 2100 for months, and frankly I don’t see any improvement. If anything, it’s slightly worse. Sometimes apps actually take longer to load and Assistant is slower to interpret my commands than on the older watch.

To be clear, Qualcomm hasn’t explicitly spelled out exactly what sort of performance bumps we should expect. It said the Wear 3100’s quad-core A7 processors and multimedia engine should help deliver “high performance” in rich, interactive modes, but didn’t provide actual numbers on estimated improvements.

Google also said it will continue to roll out performance updates to the software over time, so perhaps we’ll see more improvements. But for now the Wear 3100’s speed doesn’t appear to be much better than its predecessor.

Battery life

Battery life is similarly disappointing. Fossil said the Sport should stick around for more than a day, but it never lasted more than 18 hours. That’s a few hours more than the older Fossil watch, but still requires nightly charging. The Sport’s battery saver mode does get me a whole lot more screen time, though. I activated it at 9:30pm when the watch was at 39%, and was happy to see it was still alive the next morning, even hanging around till 12:15pm. At that time though, the battery was too weak for me to switch back to the full smartwatch mode.

I haven’t used the watch for long enough to see if it will live up to its battery saver promises, but it already beats existing options on Wear OS watches.

To be fair, the Apple Watch Series 4 only survives about 18 hours on a charge as well. But other smartwatches like the Galaxy Watch and Fitbit Versa run for days before needing a charge.


Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Hardware

As far as fitness watches go, the Fossil Sport is one of the prettiest around. I love my review unit, which has a pink case and strap, but for real I was torn between this and the version with a gold case and gray strap. With six case colors, two sizes and 28 new straps, there’s a ton of configurations to choose from and you’ll easily find one that suits your taste. It’s noticeably lighter than other Fossil smartwatches thanks to its aluminum and nylon case, but thankfully it doesn’t feel cheap.

The competition

There’s only one other watch packing the Wear 3100 right now — the Montblanc Summit 2, which costs $1,000 and has a very different aesthetic. We haven’t been able to test it yet, so I can’t speak to its performance and battery life, but that’s a ton of money and if you’re willing to drop a grand on a watch you’re probably not going to consider something as pedestrian as the Fossil Sport anyway.

At $255, the Fossil Sport is one of the most affordable Wear OS watches available, too. The only notable option that’s cheaper is the $200 Ticwatch C2, which promises up to two days of battery life. But it uses the older Wear 2100 CPU, which might not see future performance updates.

Fossil Sport

Wrap-up

Ultimately, the Fossil Sport is a decent Wear OS watch but it doesn’t do enough to show off the potential of Snapdragon Wear 3100. It’s a good-looking device that has some nifty tricks like ambient and battery saving modes that make it less obtrusive and longer lasting. Just don’t expect dramatic performance improvements over watches with older guts. As the first of a new generation of smartwatches, the Fossil Sport is an underwhelming debut that doesn’t live up to expectations.

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Alexa can now make Skype calls


Skype

Starting this week, you’ll be able to make Skype calls on your Alexa devices. Basically the entire line of Echo devices will have the ability to make voice calls via Microsoft’s VoIP platform. The Echo Show and its tablet-style screen will also be able to make and receive video calls.

In addition to calling your Skype contacts via Alexa, users will also be able to call mobile numbers and landlines using SkypeOut. The feature allows you to call existing contacts or a new number on Skype. You’ll get 100 minutes of free calls per month for two months when you link your Skype account with Alexa.

In order to set up Skype for Alexa, open the Amazon Alexa app on your Android or iOS device. Go to Settings > Communication > Skype. You’ll be prompted to login with your Microsoft account. Once you’ve successfully entered your username and password, you’ll be able to make and accept calls from Skype through Alexa.

The integration of Skype and Alexa, which was promised earlier this year, is just the latest example of Amazon and Microsoft teaming up. The companies announced a partnership last year to make Alexa and Microsoft’s voice assistant Cortona work together and earlier this year, Xbox One and Windows 10 got Alexa apps.

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The best speakers and DJ gear to give as gifts

There are people who like music — and then there are folks who can’t get enough of it. For the latter, the standard speakers and gear just won’t do. Luckily, our holiday gift guide has the equipment the music-obsessed person in your life needs. The Sonos One shows that smart speakers aren’t just for voice assistants — they can be for audiophiles as well. If you know a music lover who is always on the go, the UE Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 Bluetooth speakers offer top-notch sound that can travel. For people more interested in making music than listening to it, the Traktor DJ app for iPad is a professional-grade DJ app that doesn’t require the pricey equipment, or you can set them up to sample just about anything with the PO-33 K.O! from Teenage Engineering. Find all that and lots more in our full guide!

All products recommended by Engadget were selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company, Oath. If you buy something through one of our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Check out the full list of selections in our 2018 Holiday Gift Guide here!

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What we're buying: RetroStone's smart take on retro handheld gaming

The recent spate of retro “classic” consoles might be switching a new audience on to vintage games, but some of us never left them. For most, a $60 – $100 machine with a few flagship titles on it is probably enough to scratch the itch, but Managing Editor James Trew has a much deeper itch: to play retro games on the go without someone choosing the library for him.


James Trew

James Trew
Managing Editor

Much to the bemusement of the rest of Engadget, I have a fetish for the Atari Lynx, of which I own many, and of course, every game ever made for it. So, I already have a portable with all the games I love, why would I want another one? Because logic does not apply here. But if it did, it would be because what was considered portable in 1990 isn’t really pocket-friendly now. Much as I love the Lynx, it’s cumbersome and guzzles batteries like an electric Cookie Monster. I decided to search for something, sleek, modern, and flexible (in case I want to enjoy other platforms too). To my surprise, there’s not a lot of off-the-shelf solutions that meet my weird, specific requirements. (Ok, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.)

The problem seems to be that retro handhelds come in a few different categories. There are portable “classics” which suffer some of the same problems as their living room counterparts (limited games and no flexibility). There are some that play original cartridges for various systems, but that just seems impractical. Then there are the murky unlicensed knock-off machines on Amazon. I actually bought one of these for comparison (more on that later), but needless to say they’re kinda shoddy, and who wants to play the classic Mario 14 or a sketchy Angry Birds NES port? Not I.

RetroStone

For a while, I had been using a modded PlayStation Portable. This worked pretty well. PSPs are fairly cheap to pick up (I picked mine up for about $50 on eBay), and easy to modify. This also meant I could play PSP titles as well as my Lynx library (I make an exception for ROMS for games I own). Before too long though, the batteries for the PSP kept crapping out and replacements would often be faulty on arrival, or expensive. I considered the PS Vita as an upgrade, but they still go for more than I really wanted to spend, and you need a specific firmware version which makes finding the right one a gamble.

The next logical step was to look at a handheld running RetroPie. There are a few options here, like the Pi GRRL Zero and GameBoy Zero (both, unsurprisingly, based on Raspberry Pi Zero boards). In terms of size, flexibility and functionality, these meet my weird requirements, except they both need to be put together and need a 3D printed case (or shopping around for one you don’t hate). It looks like a fun project, I’m just not after a project right now. I wanted something that had a professionally-made feel to it and was somewhat good to go.

Enter the RetroStone ($156), by 8Bcraft. The RetroStone, with its vintage Game Boy aesthetic, instantly caught my eye. Originally launched on Kickstarter, it runs on a system similar to Orange Pi (a Raspberry Pi alternative), has its own version of RetroPi, and enough buttons to be compatible with many newer systems. Importantly, it comes ready to go, though you have to install the operating system yourself, as open source software generally can’t be “sold.” Fortunately, installation takes about two clicks on a PC to write it to the SD card, and you simply pop that back in the RetroStone.

RetroStone

What I liked most, is that the RetroStone comes with four USB ports and an HDMI out, so you can connect four controllers, plug it into your TV, and voila, you have a living room console too. There’s also a good old-fashioned headphone port and micro-USB for charging (I’m getting about 5 hours of play per charge). Most of the above is true for all Pi-based systems, this one is just well made and requires very little setup. I also just love how it looks (though, I can see it might be an acquired taste). Price-wise it’s in PS Vita territory, but I love the vintage styling and its added desktop capabilities. More on that later.

8Bcraft isn’t a large organization. In fact, as far as I know, it’s a one-man outfit. The RetroStone is the second console from him/them, with the Raspiboy ($87) being the first. The two are similar, but the Raspiboy is a little too quirky-looking (even for my taste), and, as the name suggests uses a lower-spec Raspberry Pi board. It comes as a kit but doesn’t need soldering. As the RetroStone has more processing punch, it can emulate more modern systems (apparently up to the N64/PS1 era, and even some PSP games).

Turns out, that the RetroStone exists purely for people with similar desires as me. Pierre, the man behind the product told me over email “It was very difficult to make a Game boy zero, you had to be an electrician. And when you add the cost of all parts it was pretty expensive. So I thought, why not make something that is accessible and affordable? That’s when I made Raspiboy.” (And then, the RetroStone.)

Another benefit of these “Pi” systems (whichever fruit it is), is that you can use them as portable PCs too (this is their primary purpose after all). With the RetroStone, if I plug in a keyboard and mouse, then connect it to a monitor (or my TV), then you have a full desktop to play with. This is probably not that interesting to most people, but after handheld gaming systems, my next weird tech crush is weird, small, not very practical mini PCs (ILU Nokia N800). Not sure why, but I think it’s a throwback to when the very idea of a functional, pocket-sized PC was kinda mind-blowing.

Yes, I know that I already have a phone that is well made, has oodles of processing power for both gaming and whatever else that fits in my pocket. The thing is, I want something for time away from my phone, not just more phone time. Plus I hate onscreen controls, and grips/adapters aren’t in the spirit of what I want. Like I said earlier, logic doesn’t factor highly in my plans, it’s all about that pure gaming feel.

RetroStone

And the RetroStone has feeling in spades. Every time I glance at it across the room, I have the urge to pick it up and play. I spent far too long researching slightly shitty mini wireless Keyboards (for my wonky portable PC fantasy) and I also had to buy a WiFi dongle, as the RetroStone doesn’t have any wireless at all (it does have an Ethernet port though!).

When I hold the thing, it feels comfortable, and just like a handheld console should (slightly chunky, but not heavy or cumbersome). The buttons feel like an original Game Boy, and the D-pad doesn’t feel slack or spongy. There are four more “shoulder” buttons on the back, which I find a little hard to reach, but none of the games I play right now need them.

The 3.5-inch display is decent; it’s a little low in resolution at 320×240, but that’s more than adequate. The bigger problem is that it uses the composite output (as the board’s HDMI output was needed for the TV out). That said, when I compare it side by side with the PSP running the same emulated game, it’s notably sharper. The PSP is a little blurry/soft looking, despite any tweaking I do in settings (if I am missing something here, let me know).

Game

Also, despite the love and care that has clearly gone into making this thing, you are still reminded that it’s a barebones Linux machine in a nice case. While that $20 thing I bought on Amazon boots up instantly to the game selection menu, the RetroStone goes through a whole PC-like startup process that takes almost a minute. It’s also a little temperamental, sometimes taking a few restarts before it loads up properly.

Right now, the RetroStone is the closest thing to the comprehensive retro gaming experience I am looking for. I love that it has untapped potential as a mini-PC too (and all the other perks of RetroPie, like Kodi and so on). Much as I love my old Lynx (which I paid a princely sum to upgrade the screen on), the portability and design of the RetroStone have won me over.

As enamored as I am with the RetroStone, my quest isn’t over. I know there are likely more contraptions out there, with different reasons to consider (smaller? More powerful? Has other superfluous features that’ll appeal to me?). I’m still even thinking about the PS Vita, for reasons I cannot explain. So, fellow retro gamers, if you happen to know of other systems out there to add to the collection, I’m all ears.


IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.

All products recommended by Engadget were selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company, Oath. If you buy something through one of our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Ask Engadget: Is it OK to buy a tech toy for someone else's kid?

The support shared among readers in the comments section is one of the things we love most about the Engadget community. Over the years, we’ve known you to offer sage advice on everything from Chromecasts and cameras to drones and smartphones. In fact, our community’s knowledge and insights are a reason why many of you participate in the comments.

We truly value the time and detail you all spend in responding to questions from your fellow tech-obsessed commenters, which is why we’ve decided to bring back the much-missed “Ask Engadget” column. This week’s question comes to us from a reader who needs a great gadget recommendation for a child. Weigh in with your advice in the comments — and feel free to send your own questions along to ask@engadget.com!

I’m looking for a good tech gift for someone else’s child. What would be an appropriate choice for a kid in the 7 to 10 age range?


Terrence O'Brien

Terrence O’Brien
Managing Editor

It’s pretty hard to go wrong with a littleBits kit. For the super hero fan or movie buff there are kits themed around Avengers and Star Wars that let kids build their own R2D2 or Iron Man gauntlet. If they’re a budding musician (or just like making a ruckus), there’s the Synth Kit and Electronic Music Maker kits that allow them to create custom instruments. And, of course, the whole time they’re playing, they’re actually learning valuable skills, like circuit building and programming.

Those kits start at $100, though, and if that’s too big of an ask for a child you don’t know all that well, check out littleBits’ Hall of Fame lineup. They’re only $40 each and allow kids to build two different inventions. For example, the Arcade Machine kit comes together to form a very rudimentary pinball game. But the parts can be rearranged to create a catapult too. (Don’t worry, there are less destructive options as well, like a night light.)

As an added bonus, if they dig this year’s gift, you’ve got gift ideas for years to come since you can just buy more “bits” to expand their collection. So next year get the kid a light, sound and motion sensor to connect to the R2D2 and they can turn it into a guard for their room. Or buy them a temperature sensor to hook up to the synth kit so they can make weather-based music. Basically, you can just keep going back to littleBits well year after year and almost never run out of gift giving possibilities.

You can also consider the Sphero Mini. It’s just a small, cheaper version of the regular Sphero remote control ball. For $50 you’d be getting the kid a toy that connects to an app and has a whole universe of accessories that expand its potential. Race it with friends, navigate an obstacle course or go bowling with it. And, just like the littleBits kits, it’s sneaking some learning into their lives.

All products recommended by Engadget were selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company, Oath. If you buy something through one of our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Check out the full list of selections in our 2018 Holiday Gift Guide here!

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The best external hard drives

By Justin Krajeski

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full external hard drives guide here.

We’ve spent hundreds of hours researching and testing external drives to find the best options for any use and budget. If you want a dependable external drive that has plenty of storage space for documents and photos and is easy to take on the go, get the 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim. But we also have recommendations if you want more storage space, if you want something more reliable or even faster, or if you need to regularly move large amounts of data from one computer to another with an external drive.

The most convenient drive for backups: Portable hard drive

Who this is for: People who frequently move between locations and want a hard drive to back up important documents and photos from their laptop.

Why we like it: The 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim is one of the lightest, thinnest hard drives we tested in our guide to the best portable hard drives, and it was consistently faster than the competition in our multi-file music and photo transfer tests. More important, it’s reliable—the tried-and-true Slim has been one of our picks for four years, and has an acceptable 9 percent reported failure rate across nearly 2,701 user reviews on Amazon. Seagate includes handy backup software, too.

portable hard drive seagate backup plus slim

The 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim is reliable and has fast transfer rates. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Backup Plus Slim’s USB port wobbles when pressure is applied to the cable. If you break the port, you won’t be able to access your data until you find a new enclosure. The Slim has a two-year warranty that’s a year shorter than that of Western Digital’s drives, and we’ve read some complaints about Seagate’s customer service on Amazon, but we don’t think either of these issues are dealbreakers.

Learn more in our full guide to the best portable hard drives.

If you spend most of your time at one desk: Desktop hard drive

Who this is for: People who spend most of their time working in one place and want to keep their important documents and photos safe on a higher-capacity, faster, and more cost-effective hard drive.

Why we like it: Western Digital’s 4 TB My Book is very reliable—we found it had a 6 percent failure rate across nearly 400 reviews on Amazon—and it offers the best balance of speed and price. It was about as fast as its competition in all of our tests, it’s the least expensive drive we tested, and it has a longer warranty (three years) than the other contenders. Plus, 4 TB should be more than enough space for your future storage needs.

External hard drive

A great external desktop hard drive should be reliable, fast, and inexpensive, like the 4 TB Western Digital My Book. Photo: Rozette Rago

Flaws but not dealbreakers: All of the desktop drives we tested were good, and we found the speed differences between them to be small. Because they perform so similarly, we recommend getting the cheapest desktop hard drive you can find from a trustworthy maker. Right now, that means the 4 TB Western Digital My Book. If you find a drive we’ve tested that costs less, go for it: WD’s Elements and Easystore drives are just as fast and reliable as the My Book, and Toshiba’s Canvio drive is another good option if it’s on sale.

Learn more in our full guide to the best desktop hard drives.

The best performance: Portable solid-state drive (SSD)

Who this is for: Photographers, creative professionals, and people who don’t mind spending a lot per gigabyte to get a compact 500 GB drive that’s between three and five-and-a-half times faster than portable hard drives or desktop hard drives.

Why we like it: The 500 GB Samsung T5 Portable SSD works reliably, and it was consistently faster than other portable SSDs in our tests. The Samsung supports faster, USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds with a Type-C port, and it includes AES 256-bit hardware encryption to protect your sensitive data. The T5 is about as expensive per gigabyte as other external SSDs, and it’s one of the lightest and most compact. It has the most straightforward software to navigate, which makes it a breeze to set up encryption or check for updates. Plus the T5 has an indicator light that lets you know when it’s connected. It comes with a three-year warranty.

External hard drive

The Samsung T5 Portable SSD works quickly and reliably, and it supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Compared with hard drives, the Samsung T5 Portable SSD is extremely expensive. But if you’re willing to shell out the cash, you’re safe doing so because it doesn’t have any major flaws.

Learn more in our full guide to the best portable solid-state drives.

If you have a large media library: Network-attached storage (NAS)

Who this is for: Network-attached storage is ideal for people who have large media libraries, because you can store your files in one place and stream them locally to other devices. It’s also useful for backing up multiple computers to a single location. You could also use a NAS if you have too much data to store in Dropbox or Google Drive, or if you don’t trust your data to a cloud storage provider.

Why we like it: The Synology DiskStation DS218+ is the fastest NAS we tested, and it offers powerful hardware for around $300 (plus the cost of hard drives, around $250 for a pair of 4 TB drives or around $500 for a pair of 8 TB drives). It also includes AES-NI hardware encryption acceleration for added security, has upgradable RAM, and comes with flexible software that’s easy to understand and works with a wide variety of third-party apps, such as Plex, BitTorrent Sync, and GitLab. You can use the DS218+ as a home backup device, a media streamer, a mail server, a website-hosting device, a BitTorrent box, or a video-surveillance recorder.

External hard drive

The DS218+ was the fastest, most powerful NAS we tested, with more security than other models, and easy-to-use software. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Flaws but not dealbreakers: A NAS is larger, bulkier, and pricier than other external drives we recommend, and it requires setup and management, as well as a dedicated Ethernet line.

Learn more in our full guide to the best network-attached storage.

If you frequently move data between computers: Flash drive

Who this is for: People who need to quickly move large amounts of data often—large media files like raw photos and video—from one computer to another, without relying on the Internet for convenience, speed, or privacy.

Why we like it: The SanDisk Extreme Go USB 3.1 Flash Drive was the second-fastest flash drive we tested in its price range. (The fastest has been discontinued.) Although the SanDisk’s write speeds in benchmarks were lower than we expected, in our actual file-copy tests it outperformed drives with better benchmark results, and it was more consistent in maintaining high transfer rates. The SanDisk Extreme Go comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

External hard drive

SanDisk’s Extreme Go had faster transfer speeds than nearly every drive we tested. It’s affordable, too. Photo: Michael Hession

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The 64 GB Extreme Go isn’t meant for backing up large file archives like larger-capacity external drives are. Its tiny physical size means it fits nearly everywhere—though its oblong shape means it’s a bit snug in closely spaced ports—but it’s easier to misplace than other external drives, and more expensive per gigabyte.

Learn more in our full guide to the best flash drives.

Further reading

If you’d like to learn how to reformat your external drive to work with your operating system of choice, check out our guide.

When was the last time you backed up all of your important documents and photos? Check out our step-by-step guide to backing up your computer for an easy way to get started.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commissions.

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The Morning After: We took push notifications to the limit


Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Welcome to your weekend! We’ve looked directly into the push notification abyss and come out the other side, while scientists made important decisions about the kilogram. Of course, we’re also tracking all kinds of Black Friday discounts and other highlight stories from this week like the Iron Man-ish adrenaline junkies who took their jetpack flights to a new level and some impressive results from Google’s Night Sight Pixel feature.


Next stop: O’Leary Station.Boring Company breaks through to the end of its first test tunnel

We’re within a month of the proposed opening for Elon Musk’s LA test tunnel, and late Friday night he shared video of a digging machine breaking through to its final destination.


Push it to the limit.Turning up my phone’s notifications to max shattered my brain

A recent study found that a majority of users who made a deliberate choice to turn their notifications down as part of an enforced break were not likely to turn them back on. This got Zach Hines wondering: What would happen if I cranked them in the opposite direction? What might I learn about how phones are reshaping minds? What might I learn about my own mind?


How to sell smoking in 2018.Big tobacco’s new marketing push: Smartphones, style and EDM

A joint Point and Engadget investigation has found that several British American Tobacco brands sponsored music events and created entirely new lifestyle brands that initially seem unrelated to cigarettes. But on closer inspection, they are used to raise awareness of cigarette brands in markets across Europe and Asia where overt tobacco advertisements are forbidden.


‘Loft: The Jetman Story’Watch real-life Iron Men do the first jetpack launch from the ground

Autonomous. Jetpack. Flight. Jetman Yves Rossy and his two protégés (Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet) show off some incredible stunts in a trailer for their upcoming documentary about developing the personal flying machines.


The single-serving, pod-based cocktail maker was built in partnership with AB InBev.Drinkworks Home Bar is a literal Keurig for cocktails

The “Keurig of cocktails” market is already crowded with wannabes that don’t seem to be gaining much traction, but if anyone can build the Keurig of anything, it’s got to be Keurig itself, right? Drinkworks is a joint venture between the single-serving coffee-pod giant and Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), and it’s building a familiar-looking machine that mixes up cocktails using disposable pods. The results are drinkable, but it’s still a hard sell.


Goodbye, Le Grande K.The kilogram has officially been redefined

On Friday, scientists voted to change the definition of the kilogram as well as three other units of measurement. The new definitions will be based on “what we call the fundamental constants of nature,” as Estefanía de Mirandés of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) told Science News, instead of the less precise definitions these measurements are currently tied to.

As of May 20th, 2019, the kilogram will now be defined by the Planck Constant, while the ampere, kelvin and mole will be tied to the elementary electrical charge, the Boltzmann constant and the Avogadro constant, respectively.


Two other lens projects are still in the works.Alphabet’s smart contact lens for glucose monitoring has been shelved

In 2014, Google’s life sciences division showed off its design for a contact lens that could monitor the wearer’s glucose level via their tears. Now Verily operates under Google’s parent company Alphabet and has announced that it’s moving on from the project because it was unable to get reliable results.

However, it has also been working on a smart accommodating contact lens for presbyopia (age-related farsightedness) as well as an intraocular lens to help improve eyesight after cataract surgery. Separately, it’s still working on other technology for glucose monitoring that doesn’t rely on a sensor-packed contact lens.


It’s almost that time again.Engadget will once again judge the official Best of CES Awards

It seems like just yesterday that Engadget began judging the official Best of CES Awards in January 2014, but now we’re already approaching our sixth consecutive year on the job. This year we’re expanding what was formerly known as the “Best Vision of the Future (Smart City)” category and renaming it “Most Impactful.” You can see all the categories, as well as submission requirements, in our post today, then check back in January to find out who we’ve picked as the winners.

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More companies are chipping their workers like pets

The trend of blundering into the void of adopting new tech, damn the consequences, full speed ahead, continues this week. The Telegraph tells us about “a number of UK legal and financial firms” are in talks with a chip company to implant their employees with RFID microchips for security purposes.

Ah, security purposes, our favorite road to hell paved with some kind of intentions. Is it like when Facebook took people’s phone numbers for security purposes and handed them to advertisers? Sorry, I’m just a little cynical right now. The report explained the purpose of corporate bosses chipping their workers like a beloved Pekinese is to set restrictions on areas they can access within the companies.

“One prospective client,” The Telegraph wrote, “which cannot be named, is a major financial services firm with “hundreds of thousands of employees.”

Jowan Österlund, founder of chip-implant company Biohax at the center of this deal, told the outlet: “These companies have sensitive documents they are dealing with. [The chips] would allow them to set restrictions for whoever … In a company with 200,000 employees, you can offer this as an opt-in,” said Mr. Österlund. “If you have a 15 percent uptake that is still a huge number of people that won’t require a physical ID pass.”

Never mind that RFID badge cloning is trivial to the point of funsies for hackers (who have been experimenting with hacking biochips for a while), this is about employee efficiency. A further selling point for companies grinding privacy into bottom-line dust is that it’ll save a company money. “As well as restricting access to controlled areas,” The Telegraph said, “microchips can be used by staff to speed up their daily routines. For instance, they could be used to quickly buy food from the canteen, enter the building or access printers at a fastened rate.”

As some readers may recall, this isn’t the first instance of employee chipping in recent news. Last year, American company Three Square Market in Wisconsin made headlines when 80 of its employees got chips implanted. They use the little RFID chips in their hands (the size of a grain of rice, like the one in your cat) to scan themselves into security areas, use computers and vending machines. Interestingly, Three Square sells vending machine “mico markets” but offers a cottage industry in implants (with an angle on their use for “law enforcement solutions“).

Microchip Hand Implant

Yet the first US company to inject workers with tracking chips was a Cincinnati surveillance firm in 2006, which required all employees working in its secure data center to have RFIDs implanted in their triceps. Coming from a spying company, it’s almost like asking if you’d like your Orwell with a little Orwell on top. California in 2007 swiftly moved to block companies from being able to make RFID implants mandatory, as well as blocking the chipping of students in the state.

Don’t get me wrong: becoming a cyborg sounds pretty awesome. It’s a fairly popular pastime for DEF CON attendees who like their hackery edge-play to get a souvenir implant while at the conference. But those people are hackers, and they know what they’re getting into. And I’m just that annoying person worried about normal people not knowing how they can get pwned, and who has a few irritating questions about personal security and privacy.

According to MIT Technology review, the Three Square Market employees said they liked it — the convenience outweighed personal privacy and security concerns, which could include surveillance by higher-ups, or attackers doing a little drive-by data sniffing (when hackers ping your chip to see what’s on it). President of Three Square, Patrick McMullan, told MIT that only some of the info on the chip is encrypted “but he argues that similar personal information could be stolen from his wallet, too.”

Unlike a company ID card, you can’t leave it at home. We might imagine that with all of these privacy and tracking concerns, female employees dealing with harassment would have an extra layer to worry about. MIT only quoted male employees, so that’s worth noting.

The chip-your-workpets trend spreading to the US and UK got its foothold in Sweden where apparently they are much cooler about becoming the Borg than we are. Swedish incubator Epicenter in Stockholm “includes 100 companies and roughly 2,000 workers, began implanting workers in January 2015,” reported LA Times. “Now, about 150 workers have the chips.”

Microchipped Employees

Jowan Osterlund from Biohax Sweden, holds a small microchip implant, similar to those implanted into workers at the Epicenter digital innovation business center

The chief experience officer at Epicenter, Fredric Kaijser, told press: “People ask me, ‘Are you chipped?’ and I say, ‘Yes, why not?’ And they all get excited about privacy issues and what that means and so forth. And for me it’s just a matter of I like to try new things and just see it as more of an enabler and what that would bring into the future.”

Again, I’ll annoy you by pointing out that the evangelists here all seem to be dudes, which isn’t a bad thing. It maybe might suggest no one’s thinking about the inevitable DEF CON talk “Chipped employees: Fun with attack vectors,” or a possible future headline about employee stalking or chip-based discrimination. I mean, we can already imagine the ones where ICE demands the last known doors opened by all employees on the RFID database who happen to be brown.

I’m sure it’s all well and good until someone gets locked out of their own hand. Or the app used to access your hand gets compromised.

Like I said earlier, it’s at the “damn the consequences, full speed ahead” stage.

Images: LPETTET via Getty Images (Xray); Associated Press (Biohax microchip)

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